You are at the mall shopping, and the floor in the part of the mall where you are has recently been mopped. There are no signs letting anyone know, nor have any announcements been made. You slip on the wet floor, fall, and break your arm.
The above situation is clearly an example in which you have become the victim of an accident. By definition, however, an accident is a no fault event, whereas it is clear that here you could have avoided the harm caused to you if others had acted more responsibly and made you aware of the dangers. This is a classic personal injury law case – an accident usually resulting in injury to person or property, that someone else may well be responsible for under the law.
Steps to Take if You Think You May Have a Personal Injury Case
If you have experienced something similar to the above example, or you think you may have a personal injury claim against someone (including both a person and a company), then it is vital that you take the following immediate steps of action following the accident:
* Take notes and information about the accident;
* Gather evidence of the accident;
* Contact a lawyer or law firm.
Taking Notes and Gathering Evidence
Immediately after an accident that you feel someone else may be legally responsible for, and before contacting an attorney or law firm, it is critical that you:
A. Determine, as precisely as you can, the cause of the accident;
B. Determine the nature of your injuries.
In order to keep an accurate record of the accident, you should write down everything that happened as soon as you can. If you can, you need to arrange to take pictures of the incident area and the extent of your injuries as soon as possible after the accident. Do not, however, delay needed medical attention for this. The description you write should be similar in style to the report a police officer would write (following an accident) including exactly what happened and the extent of your injuries.
Keep in mind that these facts are going to be questioned time and again over the course of your personal injury claim, which could last at least a year, so it will help your attorney to keep this report clear, coherent, and precise from the beginning. You should create and maintain an ongoing file for matters relating to the case. This file should include: your report, the photographs (if any), the police report, and the medical report.
Contact a Lawyer or Law Firm
Following the accident you’ll need to contact a lawyer or law firm. Many lawyers offer a free consultation, during which you explain your situation and get legal feedback regarding the strength of your case.
Establishing fault is essential in personal injury law
Critical to your case will be the ability to determine fault for the accident that happened. You must demonstrate that your injury was caused by someone else’s actions or failure to act, and that your injuries would not have happened otherwise.
Negligence is this failure to act
Specifically, in order to prove negligence, you (as the person injured) must prove that the person who injured you:
* Owed you a duty of care;
* Failed to provide you with that duty of care;
* Caused an accident as a result of their failure;
* Harmed you due to that accident.
You (or more importantly, your lawyer) will need to establish all four of these facets of negligence in order for your personal injury claim to be successful.
Resolving the Incident
The resolution of the incident will depend upon whether or not the other parties to the accident accept responsibility for the accident. If they do, it should be a fairly simple process for your attorney to contact the other party’s attorney, and come to an informal settlement with them. Contrarily, if they challenge their responsibility for the accident your lawyer will likely need to begin formal legal proceedings against the other parties.
Although an informal settlement arrangement sounds very amicable, remember that any informal settlement agreement will still require you to sign a contract agreeing to the amount of compensation as well as agreeing that you cannot bring any further action against the other parties in relation to this matter. A majority of personal injury law claims are settled among lawyers in this manner.
How much compensation will I receive?
While it is almost impossible to say for certain the amount of restitution you may be entitled to following an accident, an estimate would be the value attributed to your injuries under the medical claims valuation. Essentially, what this tries to do is determine how much a victim should be compensated for things such as loss of a limb, wrongful death, loss of an eye, broken bones, etc. Concerning this, your lawyer should be able to give you a rough idea as to your compensation claim once they have heard about the accident and your injuries.
Is there a time limit for me to file a claim?
As with nearly all legal matters, if you want to file a personal injury claim against someone, you must to do so within the “statute of limitations.” In essence, the statute of limitations state that nobody can be held accountable for their actions indefinitely (there are exceptions), and sets out time limits after which the person is absolved of any legal fault. Varying from one to six years for personal injuries, this will be dependent upon on the state in which you are going to make the claim. This makes it critical that you talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.